Updated: May 6
Today when I was checking my Instagram account, I was tagged in a post about puppy poo. Someone, whose identity I shall not reveal, commented on the post with the following:
high quality dry dog food is the best food and is complete and balanced... they lead to longer lifespans.
There were a few others who applauded dry dog food as being the best food to feed. To my joy, there were also some people who recommended raw, fresh food.
I'm a pet nutritionist so I have a strong opinion about this, and it saddens me greatly that there are still so many people who believe:
that there is such a thing as high quality dry dog food; and
that dry dog food is the best food to feed dogs.
First of all, there is no such thing as high quality dry dog food. Not when we're talking about kibble as the dry food.
It is actually impossible to make a high quality dry dog food (aka kibble) because of the high levels of heat used in processing dry dog food. You can, however, make a high quality air dried or freeze dried dog food.
Second of all, dry dog food is NOT the best food to feed dogs. Here are just a few reasons why:
As I mentioned, dry dog food is processed using very high levels of heat. This results in loss of nutrients and digestibility. Picture a mish mash of body parts and miscellaneous ingredients (see point 4 below) that are boiled down at a rendering plant to a grey colourless slurry and then heated further to create protein meal, which is then used in both dry and canned dog foods.
Dogs don't have a nutrient requirement for carbohydrates yet most dry dog food is very high in carbohydrates. Many (including prescription brands) have carbohydrate levels of 50-60%! Feeding high carbohydrate foods like kibble to your dog can result in poor health outcomes, including skin issues, digestive issues and obesity.
Another issue with carbohydrates is that most carbohydrate ingredients are subject to chemical fertilisers and herb- or pesticides, including glyphosate. Glyphosate is a carcinogen, meaning it can have toxic effects on your dog's health. A study being undertaken by HRI Labs on sources of glyphosate exposure in cats, dogs and horses has revealed that cats on average have glyphosate levels 16 times higher than humans and dogs on average have levels 32 times higher than humans! AND the higher exposure is believed to arise from their food! Read my toxic load blog post for more information on this.
Most dry dog foods contain pet grade ingredients. These are ingredients not considered fit for human consumption. For example, they might include road kill, euthanised pets, diseased body parts including cancerous tumours, rotting plant foods, plastics and rubbish.
They contain artificial ingredients including preservatives, synthetic vitamins and minerals, flavours and colours.
They contain chemical toxins like residue from chemically grown crops, residue from medications given to the animals incorporated into the pet food and toxic compounds from plant sources of omega 3 fatty acids that have gone rancid due to the high heats used processing dry dog foods (see note below).
"Complete and balanced"
Just because a dog food is "complete and balanced", doesn't mean it's a healthy food for your dog. You can create a "complete and balanced" dog food just by using supplements and no actual food! Complete and balanced just means it's met the nutritional requirements published by AAFCO - the Association of Animal Feed Control - which the pet food industry has deemed as an adequate representation of what dog food must contain.
Side note - you can make a complete and balanced meal that consists of real, fresh and species appropriate food. Big pet food companies don't tend to do this though because it costs more to make a dog food that contains real, fresh and species appropriate ingredients. It's cheaper (which means more profitable) to make a pet food that meets the minimum protein and fat requirements and fill up the rest with cheap carbs.
"Lead to longer lifespans"
The above factors can all have a negative impact on dog health. Dry dog food is not the type of food to promote good health or longevity.
It's unlikely that the person who wrote the comment "high quality dry dog food is the best food and is complete and balanced... they lead to longer lifespans" will read this blog post. But that's ok, because I'm not necessarily writing it for her. I'm writing it for all of you dog parents who care about the health of your dog and who question the hype pushed out by the pet food industry. People who can appreciate that healthy food does not come in a dried, highly processed, packaged form. That it comes from REAL food.
So, what do you feed your dog if my blog post has persuaded you that dry dog food is not the best food you can feed your dog?
Fresh is always best! It's best for humans and it's best for animals.
The domestic dog's ancestor (the wolf) never ate processed food cooked at high heat levels. They always ate fresh. Your dog has the same anatomy as the wolf (except for a minor genetic adaptation which allows them to digest grain) and therefore what's best for the wolf is what's best for your dog ie fresh, natural, and species appropriate whole foods.
If you'd like to learn about real food nutrition for your dog, check out The Real Food Diet for Dogs eBook here.
Note: It is very common these days for dry dog food to contain some omega 3 fatty acid foods like fish oil or flax seed / oil. This is done to appeal to health-conscious consumers who value the benefits of omega 3 (skin/joint health for example). Unfortunately, you should not rely on dry dog food to satisfy your dog's omega 3 requirements. That's because omega 3 fatty acids can break down and be destroyed by high heats. Plant sources of omega 3 fatty acids, like flax, are susceptible to oxidative rancidity decreasing product shelf life, destruction of vitamins, and formation of potentially toxic compounds.